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No camera. This sucks so badly. Packed, snarled at everyone, took a shower, took them for a last Nutty Banana ice cream, took pictures with Vic (with the kids' disposables) and the general anxiety continues. At least until US customs. We won't be home at the very least until well past midnight.

One last lunch together at St. Thomas airport, a hug and we're just alone again, just us, together. With lots of junky snacks, and new earrings ("yes, it's you - a little rowdy, a little loud, a little gypsy - very glamorous") and one more drink on the plane, just so that it counts as still a vacation day.

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A long day with a lot of things again. The guys had their written exam in the morning with all the associated nail-biting, while Vic regaled us with more stories. New term - "Deck Fluff" - the girls in bikinis lounging on the deck.

Then a bit more running around between marinas, ice bags and wet shoes and we were deposited for another afternoon on a beach - deserted of course, with a closed bar and a huge blue and yellow parrot in what looked like a chicken coop. He was louder than most chickens though, and his friens and family visited him for a screech.

Then, after they had enough torture, docking and mooring the guys came back for us and we sailed to the caves to snorkel. Amazing, of course, dark and majestic with a lot of pretty fishes and I'm so glad I took the orange floaty thingy - I felt a lot better having it and concentrating on the view (and occasionally leaky mask) and not the swimming process.

My sunburn is a lot better, there's even hope that it would turn to a tan.

Along with the sailing certificate and sunburn I seem to have also acquired some bartender cred. Apparently by the virtue of having bought those mixes and liking vodka more than rum. Oh, well, we'll see about that. I'm restless, can't find my camera and anxious about packing and travel in the morning. Though there will be an air-conditioned shower as a promised reward.

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And then some days are busier than others. Vic has indulged the tourists today. The Baths with the those big beautiful rocks were supposed to be touristy. Only he let us off the dinghy in rather heavy surf a few dozen feet from the shore. Should have been easy swim - but wasn't. Good thing I didn't bring the camera - it would have been dead. So there are no pictures of the beautiful caves. There are some of the four giant horrible looking bruises on my butt. They were pointed out to me when we were sitting on the net enjoying the sailing to the Baths. I have no idea where I got my rear end so abused. So, after another swim back to the dinghy and a dive nose-first into it - bruised butt and all, we proceeded to the next tourist trap - snorkeling spots. The sailing really is beautiful and fun and quite exotic. And the Baths are very pretty and romantic - if you don't have to chase the leader who's on the mission to accomplish and isn't waiting for anyone, or a kid who's been scared by the surf and doesn't want to do the swim back. Very romantic.

Beautiful green tinted sunlight filtering through between the giant boulders. I wish I had the camera and didn't have shoes, they were just in the way. At least I have a post card of the baths.

Somewhere around there I decided that still don't have a tan and the trip is almost over. So I worked on the tan, between the tourist traps.

Snorkeling actually wasn't all that great. The surf is rough today and the current was strong. There were some pretty corals and colorful fishies - but not enough to justify nosefuls of sea water. Not suffieciently turquoise and calm to be properly touristy. Next number of teh program, after another long sail and more sunburn, was Tortola again, another side of it - a quick run for the ice cream, a few hundred calories I ddidn't even want and a run back.

Then more sailing, the anchoring exercises that nearly left me a widow. He's certainly having a day today. So, between heavy wind, the sunburn and all those adventures I find myself surprisingly bored and restless. I don't know what I want, but it certainly isn't here.

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And finally - a vacation day. A day back at the marina, kids soaking in the pool, men practicing on the big boat. Leisurely chit-chat, showers on land, mango ice cream.

Vic says that the boat docked next to us is a swingers tour thingy. Captain, his wife and up to four couples. That explains the couples we've seen on the beach who seemed rather more in love than... well, than we are after a few nights on that boat. OF course it would be hysterically funny if this is a church outing and Vic is having a bit of quiet fun at our expense. And their captain probably told them the same thing about us too.

A blond boy in his 20s with a bit more mature looking girl - maybe late 20s. Or maybe it's just unflattering wet hair. She wanted to lie by the pool. He wanted what any 20s boy wants faced with a girl in a bikini. To play. Quite cute to watch. A couple of hours later they were walking back from the boat, looking more content, but he was still possessively hovering over his prey.

The dive shop sells stickers "What happens in Virgin Gorda stays in Virgin Gorda".

(no subject)

The time has fallen into the bits of the indolent, punctuated by food. Before breakfast, until lunch, after lunch, dinner time, evening. It's probably logical, but it annoys me, I want long term deadlines that are not dependent on my lunch, where lunch is a side thought, not the main event. Adventures are all well and good, but this one has too much food in it. And the thought that pasta is going home with us anyway...

We sent postcards from the marina, bought t-shirts and pirate stickers, and generally wasted the morning half of the day in touristy pursuits. After lunch the non-sailing portions of the party headed to the deserted resort and we went to practice sailing in the squib. We're in a lovely spot here, in season it must be really busy, but now it's deserted, festooned with the "Closed for the season" signs and very very calm.

I tacked, jibed and moored with the guys, and actually learned stuff. If the go again I'd probably be able to do it better. The guys are really getting good. Then I drove the dingy and docked it! Pretty much by myself, except I didn't know how, so I had running instruction.

The resorts off season are so comforting. I love it, really. Probably comes from growing up on one.

My bartender/short cook job is secure. I'm trusted with tuna salad and drinks. Last night I was busy with kids - so there was wine and nothing else. Today it's a new variation on Ferdinands - more lemon and lime. Goes rather well with cheese sticks, diary writing and half listening to security procedures class for Coastal Cruising.

(no subject)

8/19. Night. Vic W. Hartlen

Vic was telling stories tonight. About his first boat at age 12 and tom sawyer adventures to go with it, and all kinds of other boats he sailed and owned and met in his illustrious career of 50-some years since that first 6' dinghy. It weaves dizzyingly between Halifax, Boston, New York, Florida, Tortola, Spain, Azores, Vancouver and who knows what else. How he manned the helm for 18 hours on a boat with a dead engine in 35' seas, how he ran into two different Tortola exes of his in the same day somewhere in Canada, how he delivered boats for the rich New Yorkers through Bermuda, through storms and equipment failures of all kinds.

Whether or not there is a fictional element in those stories - they are certainly stories in the best meaning of the term. Vic is still friendly with all of his exes. He always goes for the smart independent women so that they eventually wise up and leave him. He sailed a 250' ship from Vancouver to... someplace that had already escaped me. He was nearly a minister, a scout master and member of many committees. He could have probably been an upstanding citizen of some place if he could stay there long enough. Though he has lived in the BVI for 30 years now. Sailing and making deliveries and talking about spending fivve years here and there, with xomeone or other.

Somehow I don't really believe that he really will write and publish it - though he's talking about doing it. He has won awards for photograhy... been a chef... and now he's running sailing classes, private, on boats in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. He doesn't even pretend to try to remember our names, or who is married to whom and which kids are whose. We just aren't important in his scheme of things. We won't make it into his stories, unless we get injured in some particularly amusing way. His stories are worthy of Jack London. Adventures. What an amazing life.

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Well, sleep is a fabulous thing. Life is downright bearable. Another short stop at the marina ("Beware the cat!") and we're off to practice more sailing. I don't think I'll ever again look at those glamorous white boats without thinking of the drudgery, the garbage bags and all those wet towels.

Vic came back from sailing with the guys and took me sailing! I got to tack, jibe and tie various bits of rope to various bits of metal. Then untie them again. Fun. Then we had the written portion of the test, I aced it, ho-hum, I'm good with tests. Well, there were a few questions where I sort of guessed, but I got it! I'm good with theory. Tomorrow more practice, that rather scares me.

Everyone else went swimming to the island, and I only had time for a dip. But I think I might actually get this. Now I can finally read all those books on my Kindle, and lay off the textbooks. Yippie. I can't believe it's actually my vacation.

After dinner Vic took to telling stories. He doesn't care about us, we're just a few faces in the endless chain, we aren't particularly rich or famous or eccentric. We're just typical customers. But after a few days together, a few meals and drinks - he warmed up enough to talk. And what a story does he spin! There's no way remember the storylines, but it's Jack London, Joseph Conrad brand of romantic. Or as he himself put it "I'm a practical romantic". If he didn't look so much like Santa I'd have a crush already. I might anyway.

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The nights are definitely competing with days for excitement. The starry sky is magnificent, meteor shower (Perseids?) going on now, Milky Way resplendent... since I'm not sleeping anyway, might as well enjoy it.
Crying child, can't sleep. Comforted child, got myself locked in the head. Door stuck. "Papa is swearing."
And I thought the birds at home at 4am were a nuisance. At least they have pleasant voices. Seagulls do NOT.
Coffee. Sailing back. Vic likes oatmeal, how sporting of him. After one child dove off the boat fully dressed to save the hat dropped by another I had to get involved. Reading about rigging.

I don't like this Domostroy. They go sailing and we make lunch? G. fell off. More studying after lunch. Navigation studies include compulsory manicure - cut them or tear them. Oh, the sacrifices. If I don't get certified after this!..

It says something about a trip if the highlights of it are the showers. Another marina, another pool, showers suck, coffee shop closed.

Somehow buying a box of dry mixes got me appointed the bartender of this gig. Weak vodka margaritas followed by "Ferdinand" - Vic's special recipe. Orange/rum/cranberry in 3/2/1 proportion. Of course it was too sweet, I doused it with lemon - now I need a new name for it. Franz?

Still, washing dishes off a greasy deck in the dark is an... adventure. If you have the right attitude. Which, Vic says, is the difference between adventure and adversity.

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"And how was your miserable night?" I was greeted in the morning. It wasn't as miserable as the first one, but not the kind of night I want on vacation.

Morning of "ashore knowledge" - studying the sailing theory. I always wanted to know why they're called port and starboard - and now I do! It's because before rudders there were steering boards, and they were to the side of the boat. And docking in port was obviously done on the other side - the one without the sticking out board. And then a convention was accepted that the board goes on the right and docking, correspondingly, on the left side. So they are the port side and the 'steer board' side. Vic rules. A veritable found of nautical lore.

The tropical depression has eased and we might move out tomorrow, and spend todays afternoon in the town. But not before I take another shower. I'll miss this shower. The trip to town seems like an afterthought, but it's probably a good idea. A miserably poor island town, with exorbitant prices and oddly unfriendly population. Had an argument and an ice cream and headed back to leave today. Plans seem to have a life of their own here.

The sailing part is still great, upfront, bouncing on waves. Magnificent.

With all due respect for gourmet cooking - I could do without it. But if we're doing it - so be it. Red cabbage gets the almonds crushed by the back of diving dagger, the drinks are mixed in the sports bottle (we're conserving electricity and blender is a hog), champagne comes in coffee mugs and rib bones get thrown overboard to fish and birds.

Vic is making bananas foster for us tonight. Including a dairy-free version, which is very nice of him. The rum flames, the cinnamon sparkles and banana peels get thrown to seagulls. Kids hate bananas foster.

There's a graffiti on the door of the ladies room in the marina. "Where is the purse hook?" and a picture of a hook - and in another handwriting "Stolen by pirates, arrr!" with a picture of pirate, arm attached to the hook. I find it charming, nobody else seems to share my amusement.